By Caroline Rodriguez-Charette
On the morning of Jan. 31, gunshots fired by the police in the southeast end of Ottawa at the Elmvale Acres Shopping Centre resulted in the unfortunate death of Greg Ritchie.
The Ottawa police said they received a report at 7:53 a.m. about a “suspicious incident” regarding a man dressed all in black, wearing a baseball hat with the word “dope” written on it, and seen walking with a knife in his hand along the St-Laurent Boulevard and Russell Road area.
Constables Thanh Tran and Daniel Vincelette were the first responding officers, who located the 30-year-old Indigenous man. The man, later identified as Ritchie, was carrying a small axe.
During the encounter between Ritchie and the two police officers, Vincelette was cut on the forehead, while the officers used a Taser and fired multiple shots at Ritchie, sources told CBC News. Ritchie passed away at the scene.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) – the province’s police watchdog – is currently investigating the fatal shooting. This is the third one in three years by an Ottawa police officer.
“Through no fault of his own, Greg experienced traumatic events growing up,” said Ewan Lyttle, a criminal defence lawyer, on behalf of Ritchie’s family. “He developed mental health issues. He was dealing responsibly with those issues leading up to his death.”
On the morning of his death, Ritchie had left his apartment to go to the pharmacy nearby to pick up his prescription.
Ritchie’s family would like the public to know that he was a good, caring and thoughtful person. Ritchie was a member of the Ojibwe First Nation.
“He was very proud of his culture. His cultural identity was often displayed through his art,” said Lyttle on behalf of Ritchie’s brother, Nicholas Ritchie. “Greg was a very talented artist. He painted and created artifacts with natural objects he found on the land. He was very connected to the land.”
A few days after the incident, Ritchie was honoured with a spirit walk. The ceremony was held for him right outside of the Ottawa Police headquarters by those who knew and loved him, including his Indigenous community.